Three in 10 health workers have a mental health issue - survey

Fórsa says 60% of respondents uncomfortable discussing such issue with their manager

 

More than a quarter of health workers are currently experiencing a mental health difficulty, the trade union Fórsa has said.

Based on a survey of its members, the union said almost half of Ireland’s health workers have had mental health difficulties at some stage.

The findings, published by Fórsa ahead of the biennial conference of its health and welfare division in Sligo this week, state that 55 per cent of workers aged under 35 said they had experienced a mental health issue in the past.

Nearly one third (30 per cent) of staff in this age category said they currently had a mental health difficulty.

Fórsa said staff shortages and working time were among the issues linked to the workplace mental health difficulties identified in the survey findings.

The union said more than 60 per cent of the 1,600 health workers who responded to the survey said they would be uncomfortable discussing a mental health issue with their line manager. It said 37 per cent responded that they would be “very uncomfortable doing so”.

More than 80 per cent of respondents said their employer was doing too little to promote mental health awareness, and just 7 per cent felt they were very well supported at work while experiencing mental health difficulties. Some 38 per cent said they were either very or moderately unsupported.

The union said over two-thirds of respondents said they would be comfortable initiating a conversation with a colleague they knew was experiencing a mental health issue. More than 20 per cent said they would be very or moderately uncomfortable doing so.

Stigma

A large number of respondents said the union should address the stigma around mental illness in the workplace and elsewhere. They also expressed concern that mental health issues could have a negative impact on their careers.

Martin Walsh, chairman of Fórsa’s health division, said the union would redouble its efforts to address the stigma that surrounded mental illness in the workplace and elsewhere.

“If surveys were telling us that half our workforce was experiencing influenza, chronic back pain, or any other physical ailment, I have no doubt that there would be immediate and urgent action from employers and government,” he said.

“We’ve come a long way since mental illness was literally hidden from view in institutions, and I’m encouraged that a large majority of workers would be comfortable discussing the issue with a colleague experiencing problems. But the stigma that surrounds mental health still stands in the way of a determined effort to deal with this scourge on society.”

Fórsa represents about 30,000 staff in a variety of health settings. They include health and social care professionals, clerical and administrative staff, technical grades, and others. The online survey was conducted among its members in April.